The Branson Family Comedy Christian Cavalcade, Noble Fool Theater Company. Having benefited from the city's largesse in securing a high-profile renovated space downtown, the least the Noble Fool and its tenants can do is provide a few laughs. But that's apparently beyond Harvey Finklestein's Institute of Whimsical, Fantastical, and Marvelous Puppet Masterage. To call this witless show featuring sock puppets "sophomoric" slanders sophomores everywhere. Finklestein (auteur of Sock Puppet Showgirls, something of a cult hit last year) has managed to miss the huge target of the Christian right in this pastiche of song parodies, scatological jokes, and predictably "transgressive" story lines: the daughter of a devout evangelical family sleeps around, the son is gay, the grandmother hates Jews, the grandfather is incontinent. (Yes, it's all on that level.)
There's some humor in the progressively more ludicrous euphemisms for masturbation ("I'm double-clicking my mouse"), but that's hardly a substitute for a script. And any three graduates of a Second City class could have improvised something funnier than this show out of the suggestion "an Opryland-style revue revealing the essential hypocrisy of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker." Or they would have known better than to attempt such a shopworn idea without at least freshening it with contemporary references: to our born-again president, faith-based charities, parallel extremists in other religious communities. This show did accomplish one remarkable thing: it convinced a left-wing urban Jew that the Christian right was being unfairly pilloried.